g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

Steven Den Beste
James Lileks
Little Green Footballs
As the Apple Turns
Cold Fury
Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
Tal G in Jerusalem
Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
Ravishing Light
Cartago Delenda Est

Cars without compromise.

Book Plugs:

Buy 'em and I get
money. I think.
BSD Mall

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 3/21/2005 -  3/27/2005
 3/14/2005 -  3/20/2005
  3/7/2005 -  3/13/2005
 2/28/2005 -   3/6/2005
 2/21/2005 -  2/27/2005
 2/14/2005 -  2/20/2005
  2/7/2005 -  2/13/2005
 1/31/2005 -   2/6/2005
 1/24/2005 -  1/30/2005
 1/17/2005 -  1/23/2005
 1/10/2005 -  1/16/2005
  1/3/2005 -   1/9/2005
12/27/2004 -   1/2/2004
12/20/2004 - 12/26/2004
12/13/2004 - 12/19/2004
 12/6/2004 - 12/12/2004
11/29/2004 -  12/5/2004
11/22/2004 - 11/28/2004
11/15/2004 - 11/21/2004
 11/8/2004 - 11/14/2004
 11/1/2004 -  11/7/2004
10/25/2004 - 10/31/2004
10/18/2004 - 10/24/2004
10/11/2004 - 10/17/2004
 10/4/2004 - 10/10/2004
 9/27/2004 -  10/3/2004
 9/20/2004 -  9/26/2004
 9/13/2004 -  9/19/2004
  9/6/2004 -  9/12/2004
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 7/26/2004 -   8/1/2004
 7/19/2004 -  7/25/2004
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  7/5/2004 -  7/11/2004
 6/28/2004 -   7/4/2004
 6/21/2004 -  6/27/2004
 6/14/2004 -  6/20/2004
  6/7/2004 -  6/13/2004
 5/31/2004 -   6/6/2004
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 5/17/2004 -  5/23/2004
 5/10/2004 -  5/16/2004
  5/3/2004 -   5/9/2004
 4/26/2004 -   5/2/2004
 4/19/2004 -  4/25/2004
 4/12/2004 -  4/18/2004
  4/5/2004 -  4/11/2004
 3/29/2004 -   4/4/2004
 3/22/2004 -  3/28/2004
 3/15/2004 -  3/21/2004
  3/8/2004 -  3/14/2004
  3/1/2004 -   3/7/2004
 2/23/2004 -  2/29/2004
 2/16/2004 -  2/22/2004
  2/9/2004 -  2/15/2004
  2/2/2004 -   2/8/2004
 1/26/2004 -   2/1/2004
 1/19/2004 -  1/25/2004
 1/12/2004 -  1/18/2004
  1/5/2004 -  1/11/2004
12/29/2003 -   1/4/2004
12/22/2003 - 12/28/2003
12/15/2003 - 12/21/2003
 12/8/2003 - 12/14/2003
 12/1/2003 -  12/7/2003
11/24/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/17/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/10/2003 - 11/16/2003
 11/3/2003 -  11/9/2003
10/27/2003 -  11/2/2003
10/20/2003 - 10/26/2003
10/13/2003 - 10/19/2003
 10/6/2003 - 10/12/2003
 9/29/2003 -  10/5/2003
 9/22/2003 -  9/28/2003
 9/15/2003 -  9/21/2003
  9/8/2003 -  9/14/2003
  9/1/2003 -   9/7/2003
 8/25/2003 -  8/31/2003
 8/18/2003 -  8/24/2003
 8/11/2003 -  8/17/2003
  8/4/2003 -  8/10/2003
 7/28/2003 -   8/3/2003
 7/21/2003 -  7/27/2003
 7/14/2003 -  7/20/2003
  7/7/2003 -  7/13/2003
 6/30/2003 -   7/6/2003
 6/23/2003 -  6/29/2003
 6/16/2003 -  6/22/2003
  6/9/2003 -  6/15/2003
  6/2/2003 -   6/8/2003
 5/26/2003 -   6/1/2003
 5/19/2003 -  5/25/2003
 5/12/2003 -  5/18/2003
  5/5/2003 -  5/11/2003
 4/28/2003 -   5/4/2003
 4/21/2003 -  4/27/2003
 4/14/2003 -  4/20/2003
  4/7/2003 -  4/13/2003
 3/31/2003 -   4/6/2003
 3/24/2003 -  3/30/2003
 3/17/2003 -  3/23/2003
 3/10/2003 -  3/16/2003
  3/3/2003 -   3/9/2003
 2/24/2003 -   3/2/2003
 2/17/2003 -  2/23/2003
 2/10/2003 -  2/16/2003
  2/3/2003 -   2/9/2003
 1/27/2003 -   2/2/2003
 1/20/2003 -  1/26/2003
 1/13/2003 -  1/19/2003
  1/6/2003 -  1/12/2003
12/30/2002 -   1/5/2003
12/23/2002 - 12/29/2002
12/16/2002 - 12/22/2002
 12/9/2002 - 12/15/2002
 12/2/2002 -  12/8/2002
11/25/2002 -  12/1/2002
11/18/2002 - 11/24/2002
11/11/2002 - 11/17/2002
 11/4/2002 - 11/10/2002
10/28/2002 -  11/3/2002
10/21/2002 - 10/27/2002
10/14/2002 - 10/20/2002
 10/7/2002 - 10/13/2002
 9/30/2002 -  10/6/2002
 9/23/2002 -  9/29/2002
 9/16/2002 -  9/22/2002
  9/9/2002 -  9/15/2002
  9/2/2002 -   9/8/2002
 8/26/2002 -   9/1/2002
 8/19/2002 -  8/25/2002
 8/12/2002 -  8/18/2002
  8/5/2002 -  8/11/2002
 7/29/2002 -   8/4/2002
 7/22/2002 -  7/28/2002
 7/15/2002 -  7/21/2002
  7/8/2002 -  7/14/2002
  7/1/2002 -   7/7/2002
 6/24/2002 -  6/30/2002
 6/17/2002 -  6/23/2002
 6/10/2002 -  6/16/2002
  6/3/2002 -   6/9/2002
 5/27/2002 -   6/2/2002
 5/20/2002 -  5/26/2002
 5/13/2002 -  5/19/2002
  5/6/2002 -  5/12/2002
 4/29/2002 -   5/5/2002
 4/22/2002 -  4/28/2002
 4/15/2002 -  4/21/2002
  4/8/2002 -  4/14/2002
  4/1/2002 -   4/7/2002
 3/25/2002 -  3/31/2002
 3/18/2002 -  3/24/2002
 3/11/2002 -  3/17/2002
  3/4/2002 -  3/10/2002
 2/25/2002 -   3/3/2002
 2/18/2002 -  2/24/2002
 2/11/2002 -  2/17/2002
  2/4/2002 -  2/10/2002
 1/28/2002 -   2/3/2002
 1/21/2002 -  1/27/2002
 1/14/2002 -  1/20/2002
  1/7/2002 -  1/13/2002
12/31/2001 -   1/6/2002
12/24/2001 - 12/30/2001
12/17/2001 - 12/23/2001
Sunday, October 26, 2003
14:10 - iQuickTime

As an afterthought to a list of gripes about iTunes (quite reasonable ones, too, which he submitted to Apple's iTunes feedback page rather than simply giving the app the Imperial thumbs-down), Aziz Poonawalla has an interesting idea:

PS. Is it possible to combine QuickTime and iTunes into a single app? I would greatly enjoy being able to sort my video (esp trailers of movies downloaded from the web or Apples own site) the same way i do my music.

Not bad. A lot of people have speculated over the years about an iTunes-like organizer for movie files. After all, various QuickTime Player versions have made the odd attempt to integrate movie organization into themselves, though their success has been quite limited; with iTunes, and especially once iPhoto came out, people have been expecting something similar for movie files to appear.

I wish I could find a screenshot: QuickTime 4, the version of the player that is widely regarded as the most godawful piece of crap design ever to leave the hallowed halls of One Infinite Loop, had a "drawer" that slid out from the bottom of the player; in this drawer was a grid of little "wells", square hot-spots that you could drag movies and favorite online stream sources into. Each movie would then appear visually in the grid wherever you dragged it to, using the first frame (or "poster frame") of each movie to represent it as a visually identifiable icon, rather than as a cryptic filename.

Sure, I'll bet it sounded great on paper. It probably made great demo-ware, too. But in practice, it was garbage. Why? Because most movie trailers-- the major source of the movie clips that people put into the drawer-- didn't have a poster frame explicitly set; and so the player showed them all using their very first frames. And what would those be?

If you said "Any frame which accurately represents the content of the movie", you would be wrong. No, it was always either a blank black screen, or that green "This movie has been rated PG" screen.

Every single one of them.

And there was no filename or any other meta-data to help you tell the clips apart. So you ended up with a big grid full of little indistinguishable movie-trailer-looking icons, and you had no idea which one was which. It made a mockery of the very concept of the word "organization".

Oh, sure, they improved it with time. They added a mouse-over status message, so that it would tell you the filename or title of the movie as you hovered over each one. But that meant you had to hover your mouse over each one to tell you what it was. And in QT5, they took out the drawer and put the Favorites pane into a separate screen, hiding it from view. And QT6 improved the situation still further by taking out the whole "grid" concept and replacing it with a spartan little "Favorites" window, which amounts to nothing but a list of files that you can drag to rearrange. It's barely worth considering a "feature" anymore-- but at least it now tells you the filenames.

So: What about some kind of QT-iTunes hybrid, that would do for multimedia files what iTunes does for music?

As an aside, it's important (particularly for Windows users) to know that QuickTime is not just a movie player. It's the entire graphics and multimedia software subsystem underlying the Mac OS; it occupies a layer in the operating system just slightly higher than the kernel. It's pervasive and all-knowing. When you install QuickTime on Windows, you're actually installing nearly a complete Carbon code environment. On the Mac, QuickTime is what handles image viewing (through any application, third-party or not), movie playback, music playback, MIDI, DVDs, and so on. It's woven throughout the system. The "QuickTime Player" is actually just a little stubby outgrowth of that whole structure-- a minimal little doc-window that can call up pretty much any media type and display it. So you can imagine that there's some cognitive dissonance between what it looks like to a Windows user who installs it, and what it looks like to the operating system.

That said, though: what would such a "multimedia organizer" look like? It would have to handle both streamed and self-contained movies, and the designers would have to figure out whether it should handle music files and pictures as well-- because it could, but should it? Should it be just a movie-playing/organizing app (QuickTime on steroids), or should it be integrated into iTunes? If the latter, does that mean iTunes would evolve into a complete multimedia organizing system? I personally think that would be a disaster-- iTunes' simplicity would be totally wrecked by that. It's already stretched by the "Internet Radio" metaphor; movie files and pictures would shatter the gestalt of the thing, and evolve into a big mishmash of interface styles and controls and metaphors, like Sherlock.

iPhoto has already demonstrated that the best way to organize pictures-- perhaps-- is visually, using thumbnails, and optionally filtering based on assignable keywords. iTunes, of course, has its albums and artists and track names. What would the organizational criteria be for movies? We already know that relying visually on a poster frame is woefully inadequate. So is relying purely on filenames-- that's ugly. But what else is there? We could try sorting movies based on source name, producer name, format, length, size... but those are all very chaotic pieces of data. Movie files come from all kinds of places-- home movies, video game screen captures, ripped DVDs, and of course movie studios releasing trailers. They have almost nothing in common. Trailers might have studio names embedded in them, but home movies sure don't. Size tells you nothing, as does format. There isn't a lot in there that's usable. And the infrastructure is all ad-hoc; there's nothing like the CDs with queryable track names, the ubiquitous artist names and labels, the genres, the ID3 tags, the bite-sized track-by-track-ness of music. MP3s are suited to iTunes-like organization; movies just, simply, aren't.

Small wonder, then, that iMovie was what became the "movie" chunk of the iLife puzzle, rather than a souped-up movie-organizer based on the QuickTime Player.

I'd still like to see one, though. I'm sure there's something that could be done: an iTunes-like interface in which you can sort your movie files in a simple list, with columns showing the criteria that can be gleaned from each one. Playlists would be useful in that you can group movies on a conceptual basis: "Trailers", "Home Movies", "DDR", and so on. You'd get a poster frame that you could set right in the interface by dragging a slider, like in iDVD, or even have them playing in a loop in the organizer. Click on one, and it would show in a preview window; pop it open into a bigger window or display it full-screen if you want. You should be able to organize them into sequential lists, or even cross-fade them on the fly. You could have user ratings. You could burn them onto a CD, or even a DVD for sequential playback of a simple list of movies.

In other words, sort of a melding of QuickTime and iDVD.

And if they need a way to make money off it, well, hey... movie trailers could be direct purchasing links to movies on DVD, or something. Right? The Apple Movie Store?

It's not too far out in left-field, is it?

...Or, considering that on the Mac you can assign custom file icons to your movie files right in the Finder, is there in fact no real benefit that such an application would give you over simply using... files and folders?

Saturday, October 25, 2003
20:54 - Scintillating lunchtime conversation

CHRIS: E-business... F-stop.. G-spot...
ME: H-... um. Bomb?
CHRIS: I-Life... J-walk...
ME: K-rations... L-train...
ME: You know, like in Chicago.
ME: M-path.. N-tropy...
KRIS: O-ring...
DAVID: P-chan?
ME: Q-zone... R-type... S-class... uh, T-party...
DAVID: U-suxxor.
CHRIS: V-ger?
ME: Double-U-suxxor!
CHRIS: X-ray. Y... not.
ME: Z... coach?

Yay! We're dorks!

20:20 - Relatively painless

Twenty-five minutes to upgrade the G5 to Panther.

Twenty-five minutes. (Ten minutes on the first disc, fifteen on the second. I saved some time by leaving out the French localization. Nah, just kidding.) Compared to nearly three hours on the G3 iBook.

I think I'll like this machine.

...Once my bloody monitor gets back from service, that is. Grr. Anyway.

People all over the place are saying things like "I really had no idea what Exposť would be like-- it's almost impossible to describe on paper. You have to see it to understand-- it is damn cool." And yes, yes it is. I think it's one of the best solutions anyone's yet come up with for the age-old problem of grabbing the window you want out of a stack twenty Z-levels deep.

The first-order solution, after we graduated from the one-app-at-a-time modality of DOS and the first few Mac OS versions, was to minimize the window-- to an icon in Windows 3.1, or to the Taskbar in Win95. The Mac's solution ('round about 1994) was WindowShade, where you double-click on the title bar of the window and the window "rolls up" so all you see is the title bar. This had the advantage over Windows that you could "hide" a window and see what was behind it without having to move your mouse; the Windows minimize meant you had to go diving down to the bottom of the screen to get your window back. But WindowShade also meant lots of little horizontal title bars floating around and cluttering up the screen.

In Mac OS X, we've traditionally had two options: Hide the application (or Hide Others, to hide everything but the current app), or minimize to the Dock, Š la Windows. Meanwhile, Win98 and later had the "Show/Hide Desktop" button, which let you instantly minimize and restore everything-- but then if you started to restore windows one-by-one, the state of the function got all non-deterministic. An improvement, but hardly ideal; and it didn't really help you focus on individual apps.

Alt+Tab/Command+Tab helped a bit-- you could zap from one application to another, if you knew the icon you wanted. In Windows this could be annoying in that many of your icons would look the same in the little pop-up dialog, and even if they weren't it was a very abstract concept. You had to remember your filename, which was no easy feat if you had, say, six Excel spreadsheets open in an MDI window, each with a cryptic filename that someone else in the company came up with. Mac OS X hopped from open app to open app in the Dock, which wasn't much prettier.

Until today, to grab the window you want, you've had to either a) move your mouse a lot, b) hide apps until you see the one you need, or c) work by filenames and tiny icons. None of them were very ideal or natural.

Well, now the problem is solved, and in a visual way-- the way that the human mind likes to work. Hit a key, and all your windows zoom to a neatly tiled layout all over your screen. Click the one you want, and it zooms to the front. You can also tile the windows within the current app only, or scoot all the windows off the screen at once. Want to put a file into your Mail message? Just hit F11 to sweep the screen clear, click and drag the file from the Desktop, hit F11 again to summon all your windows back, and drop the file onto the Mail window.

You can assign Hot Corners to these three behaviors (triggering them by moving the mouse pointer into selected screen corners), or even assign them to mouse clicks. I now have "All Windows" set to tile when I click the middle mouse button, and the screen to clear when I Option+click.

And naturally it's all just a Quartz layering effect, so all the windows are still displaying live while they're scaled-down and tiled. And naturally the G5 just purrs while doing this, whereas the G3 iBook kinda trips and coughs.

I love it when a feature like this comes out: yes, it's resource-hungry and makes for great show-off material. But it's also useful, and it wouldn't be anywhere near as much so if it didn't have all the Quartzy goodness. Seeing where all these windows come from and return to, in smooth real-time, is a functional requirement, not just a gee-whiz graphic effect. It's also important, from a comfort and gestural standpoint, for the feature to be impeccably polished, with every pixel and every shaded screen region carefully engineered. I saw Exposť evolve from its early form in the first betas; it looked nice then, but it's so sweet now. Form and function interweaving, inextricably. That's what it's all about.

Anyway-- the iBook had some problems; after installation completed, the Finder kept crashing and restarting, crashing and restarting, writing out kernel-access error dumps into the system logs every time. (Seems it's trying unsuccessfully to open a menu bar.) I couldn't figure out what was causing it, but a newly created user worked fine, so I just moved all my files over to a new account and everything seems happy now. It shouldn't have happened, but this is a fairly old, grandfathered configuration. It was getting messy anyway. This gives me a chance to rearrange some folders that I've been meaning to clean up since... oh, about July 2001.

Ahhh. Now to relax with a movie. I understand DVD Player 4 is integrated into Panther; I wonder what's different. ...I guess I'll find out.

Friday, October 24, 2003
15:45 - Hella cool


I've managed to miss out completely on what the real big news with 10.3 is: Panther Server. While the consumer OS is definitely very much souped-up, I've just been looking through the various pages for Panther Server, and it's way more impressively redeveloped. In fact, it's now apparently to the level where Apple is pushing it as a total replacement for Windows and UNIX servers-- even in a totally Windows-based network.

It's got complete Windows-network functionality, with primary controller abilities, single sign-on, roaming network home directories, and desktop access control for all your machines; account management for Windows, Kerberos, directory replication, Active Directory compatibility, and diskless NetBoot.

And they've taken all the other UNIX-y stuff and wrapped it all up together into a single big, rich "Server Admin" application, which used to have just the big five major server functions (Web, E-mail, FTP, and so on). Now it's got dozens of services, all GUI-fied. Mailman. Tomcat. Apache (1.3 and 2.0). MySQL. PHP. Postfix with RBL and SSL and spam/virus filtering. Webmail. And all the QuickTime streaming stuff.

Then there's all the GUI-fied networking functions. Firewall (IPFW). VPN. DNS. DHCP. NAT. And this is all unified into the same Server Admin app, which looks from the screenshots to be an absolute joy to use. If I were in IT, I'd be wiping drool out of my lap right now. ...Wait. Be right back.

This is designed to be a better Windows server than Windows, and a better UNIX server than UNIX. I don't see much that they left out.

Someone told me a while ago that "Panther Server is the first Mac OS X Server version that really surpasses traditional UNIX in functionality and robustness." If these screenshots are any indication, it's showing them what its heels look like.

13:52 - For love of the craft

You know-- for a piece of marketing-fluff that nobody in their right mind would actually spend any time looking at (c'mon, did I ever say I was in my right mind?), Apple's put a lot of effort into designing these "countdown" tickers.

They're not textual SSIs that reload the page every minute. They're not cheesy JavaScript. They're carefully pre-rendered digital readouts in QuickTime embeds. And for what? To give the impression that tonight at 8:00, the world will change. And we'd all better be there to see the Rapture!

... Well, okay, so I will. But c'mon! You guys are having way too much fun with this stuff. Haven't you heard this is a cutthroat and dangerous industry with no room for aesthetics or artisanship?

You guys are a little too festive for your own good, if you ask me!

(Okay, now speed up that damn clock. I want Exposť!)

10:17 - "Our first goal is to show utter contempt for the environment..."

This is most excellent. Apparently it's what all of Hollywood heard in January.

As Marcus says, "When do I get my three nucular missiles?"

Seriously. I'm waiting.

Thursday, October 23, 2003
16:19 - Who's sticking with it?


iTunes 4.1.1 is out, for all you Windows folks who may have seen fit to give it a try. Especially if it crashed.

"A few customers reported conflicts with specific PC configurations and we quickly updated the iTunes software in response," Apple said Wednesday.

"iTunes 4.1.1 addresses an isolated incompatibility with Windows 2000 and older third-party CD burning software as well as problems caused by corrupt MP3 files on some users' PCs."

Some of the bugs with the Windows version of the iTunes software, which incorporates access to Apple's online music store, caused some Windows 2000 machines to freeze after installing iTunes, an Apple spokesman said.

That's pretty dang quick, if you ask me. I knew there'd be lots of problems of this type-- Apple's not accustomed to the scale of compatibility testing that's necessary for PC software. But they got this one turned around in what, three days? Not bad.

What's interesting to me is that this story rates a front-page link at CNN.com. People are paying attention, you say?

Go get the download here.

13:26 - Maybe I should add a polling feature... naaahh

This would be a revealing poll:

With which war in U.S. history do you think this year's War in Iraq has the most in common?
  1. Revolutionary War
  2. Civil War
  3. World War I
  4. World War II
  5. Vietnam
  6. Korean War
  7. Gulf War
  8. Afghanistan

Might make an interesting Rorschach's test.

(No, I'm not actually asking for responses. It's just a thought experiment.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
00:07 - Hump Day

New Shows Night on Comedy Central.

I was prepared to write off Kid Notorious as being little more than a thinly-veiled me-tooing of Gary the Rat, only with Robert! Evans! instead of... <mumbleKelseyGrammermumble>. And indeed there is plenty of that-- limited animation, overt late-night street-cred appeal, and a screechingly annoying cat sidekick whose character is limited to going "Meeew!" to punctuate sentences.

But after a few minutes, it's obvious that this is at least considerably better produced than GTR-- presumably Comedy Central can afford to pay Flash animators a ton better than Spike TV can, and the writing is actually quite sharp. Even the cat is a lot better executed than was originally apparent-- it's not just an irritating foil, it's an actual source of laughs.

And I find myself actually quite impressed by the animation. It's clear that it's not much more expensive to produce than South Park-- but it's actually very, very intricate compared to, say, Hanna-Barbera (either today's Adult Swim stuff that's deliberately campified, or the 70s stuff that just couldn't do any better). It's as complex in movement as South Park's animation has gotten, plus the benefit of some really excellent character designs-- real-person caricatures more realistic than I think I've ever seen in an art style this abstract. That plus the writing, which started making me laugh in spite of my skeptical self, and then eventually got to where I was genuinely enjoying it... much of the time, makes me think I'll give it a shot. Maybe.

Speaking of South Park, this episode was one of the best ever-- it takes on the "metrosexual" movement, the whole "Queer Eye" phenomenon, and so forth. I think we've got our new chant for a while: Crab people... crab people... crab people...

And incidentally, something that's been interesting to me for some time is that Trey and Matt have been exceedingly kind to Bush. They barely caricature him at all. In this episode, the Queer Eye guys give him a makeover-- and he never even has a speaking line. You'd think, this being South Park and all, that they'd skewer him like they've never skewered anyone before. These are the guys who did That's My Bush, for Pete's sake. But in South Park, Bush is portrayed as a bland, oldish, almost characterless Generic President, like Leslie Nielsen without the humor. It's awfully weird, since Bush is probably one of the more caricaturable Presidents we've had in a long time. (Certainly he's more actively caricatured than most.)

I guess maybe Trey and Matt feel like they had their crack at Bush, in the live-action show, and now it just isn't funny anymore; or maybe they'd really rather just not spend time mocking him, because really-- how edgy would it be? It's not like mocking Bush is a subversive fringe thing, only engaged in by secretive and furtive independent films and stage comedians. You can change to any other channel at any time and see Bush mockery; so where's the challenge?

And for that matter, maybe they even agree with him these days. Matt's appearance on Bowling for Columbine notwithstanding, it strikes me that the guys are the kind who feel there are more important things to cover these days than whether Bush has stumbled over another word this week. It's not for naught that we keep talking about South Park Republicans; the plotlines that the show keeps covering always seem to pursue the eventual moral of "Quit acting like such a pie-in-the-sky dumbass and use some common sense", and I've barely ever found myself disagreeing with the show's premises, once they're revealed. It's why I keep watching it.

Anyway. Back to the crown molding. I might just be able to finish it tonight...

18:22 - Webmasters, re-arm!

By the way--

In response to Jen's general request, I registered at an online Arabic translation site (there don't appear to be any free ones, so I plunked down for one-- who knows how else it might prove useful) so I could obtain a translation of this page, which refers in perpetrators' terms to the recent DOS attacks against Internet Haganah.

The translated document is here.

Make of it what you will.

17:43 - Temba, his arms open

Matt at Blackfive:

At first, I was so damn angry after the experience you are about to read that I didn't trust myself to write something coherent. Then, I calmed down and figured that it was an anomaly. I wasn't going to write about this experience, but, with the recent comments coming out of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia, I thought that I might be able to shed some light on what we are up against in the world...

Go read his story.

How the hell can we ever convince people like Masood that "the Jews" aren't the problem - that his blindness is the problem? And if we can't convince the likes of him, how can we reach countless millions that don't have Masood's liberal education, facility with English, or access to our mediums?

Simple answer: I don't think we can penetrate that kind of cultural and religious brainwashing.

Which is why, when I saw this article on the Malaysian Prime Minister's hateful words, I wasn't shocked. Not in the slightest.

It really is us against them. Us and the Israelis and a few others against 1.6 billion zealots.

Get used to the idea.

A simplistic thought, yesno? Good and evil? Us against them? How infantile!

...Except that, as Steve Antler (via InstaPundit) points out, it really is a different world that we're up against. A different experience of humanity.

Our cultural reflexes admonish us to find common ground above all else, and to allow our own interpretations of reality itself to fluctuate, to ebb and flow, to conform to whatever mode lets us all "just get along".

It's what comes naturally to us these days, just like the irresistible urge to find tortured parallels between historic or even mythical events and what's going on in the present world. Stratfor, the other day, posted an analysis that painted Bush today in terms that equated him with the Kennedy that faced down Krushchev over Cuba: inexperienced, irresponsibly belligerent, unfocused, tharn (to use a Richard Adams word). Hey, the Russians called JFK a "cowboy" too! Sunrise, sunset... sunrise, sunset...

(Not saying the piece was without merit. It had plenty. It just strikes me as very telling that even a news analysis organization like Stratfor can't seem to resist the temptation to speak in the language of historical metaphor-- because, hey, they know it's what catches readers' imaginations. More so than just shooting straight with an analysis of the situation in a vacuum.)

But the Left, it seems to me, is so deeply ingrained with this idea of describing the world in poetic, metaphorical terms, that they leap to even the most ludicrous levels of hyperbole just to get on record with the All-Important Parallel. That's how Bush gets to be Hitler. It's how Iraq gets to be Vietnam. It's how the Israelis get to be the Nazis. It's how America, the nation that has done more than any other in the history of the world to lift humanity out of its millennia of anonymously skulking in mud huts under the whips of the elite masters, gets to be the Evil Empire. Historical parallels, mixed with a rich helping of shocking irony... why, that's how to make truth! ...Right?

Hence this widely held impression, espoused by so many high-school and college liberals, that conservatives are either a) fascistic or b) stupid, or most likely both. They must be fascistic because they have flags, and Hitler had flags! They must be stupid because they see things in black and white, and as we all know, the world is all shades of gray!

What seldom seems to be stated is that yes, the world is all shades of gray... but those who support the WoT have not denied this fact. They have, instead, analyzed the gray of our situation, and they've made a judgment as to whether it's closer to black or to white.

That's the trap that this guy fell into, in that thread at IMAO: he strode confidently into the fray, sure that he was facing down a bunch of uneducated hicks who had never set foot outside their home counties except to buy new coonhounds. It clearly hadn't even occurred to him that anybody could be intelligent, eloquent, educated-- and yet conservative and/or pro-war. Does not compute!

For the Left, analysis begins and ends with the acknowledgment of grayness. It's both the default condition and the epitome of perspicacity to see how multifaceted everything is. The beauty of it is that you don't have to do any work to come to that conclusion, because that's where everybody starts out these days, right from the cradle. What children's books are being written today that feature a struggle between Good and Evil? How many, by comparison, are all about characters of all backgrounds coming together to overcome a nonspecific hardship?

(This is speculation... but somehow I think my suspicions wouldn't turn out too far off the mark. And yes, I know all about those studies that describe how you can foretell a country's political atmosphere by looking at the rhetorical slant of children's books written fifteen years beforehand.)

So conservatives who take sides automatically fall under suspicion. After all, if they see things as black and white, it must mean they just haven't thought things through, right? They just haven't yet arrived at the inevitable conclusion, the Truth of Gray?

And if they have arrived there through rational thought, well... you know what that means. Evil!

That same Stratfor article warned against losing historical perspective when faced with the temptation to presume that today's situation is unprecedented. Well, okay, concern noted. But we really are in a unique period in history. World cultures are interacting physically and intellectually in ways never before seen on planet Earth. And something like 9/11 really hasn't ever happened before.

Oh, sure, historical parallels can be drawn, with some mental gymnastics. But are they really likely to be helpful? Even if the reactions of the world to, say, Pearl Harbor, or to Sherman's March to the Sea, or to Carthage can be judged to have been "correct", who's to say that those same reactions have any applicability to today?

This war we're fighting is a war of ideas far more than it is one of bullets. It's a common foe, one we've fought before, in many guises: the recurring specter of a philosophy that simultaneously absolves a people of its sins and blames its hardships on an external "other". We once called it monarchic tyranny; then we called it Naziism; then we called it racism; then we called it communism; now we call it radical Islamism. We've used the same fortress of ideas to fight each one of these foes-- freedom, democracy, secularism-- and while we change from it a little each time, we keep winning.

But that doesn't mean we can allow ourselves to slip into historical overanalysis regarding today's situation. We have to develop a new vocabulary, because the old one will just get us tongue-tied.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Shaka, when the walls fell.

Mirab, his sails unfurled!

Seems to me we'll get a lot further by calling a spade a spade... and paranoid Jew-hating xenophobes by their true name.

The Bad Guys.

11:05 - No More G3s


The iBook's just gone G4. And with that, the last G3-based Mac is now no longer.

Mine's still serviceable, though its 500 MHz is getting a bit poky these days-- not that I use it for anything other than web-surfing and note-taking, but I still feel the pinch on occasion. It's certainly held up well. I'll give 'em this: the iBook design is a real winner. The screen hinge, which I'm told is a really tricky part to design well, is still tight and firm. The plastic case is scuffed, but there's no visible damage anywhere from all the abuse it's undergone. All in all, a dandy little machine.

And now, for $400 less than what I paid for it when it was new, you can get a version of it that's based on an 800-MHz G4, with a slot-loading drive and USB2. Or up to 1 GHz for the 14-inch one (which I don't find very appealing, for some reason-- I've never really liked the proportions of the 14-inch; something about the aesthetics, I guess).

This also completes the line of AirPort Extreme-capable Macs. They've finished a generational turnover for CPUs and for wireless; this is the kind of day where they can sit back and take a little bit of a breather. And a well-deserved one, at that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
17:28 - My iPod, she is very sick


I hooked my trusty old 5GB iPod onto my belt again for the first time in two months this morning-- after a long and intense tour of service as the boot drive for my copy of Panther that I was using for reference all this time.

It's really quite neat, in theory: the iPod is just an external FireWire drive, so you can plug it in to any Mac and boot off it. You can install Mac OS X onto it just like you can to any disk-- just select it in the OS installer screen. When the Mac boots, just hold down Option, and select the iPod from the bootable volumes. Very slick.

Well, except there are complications. First of all, it's not just a disk; it's also an iPod. Which means two things: 1) a Mac will treat it with special deference, launching iTunes every time you log in while it's plugged in (which, of course, it is-- it's booting off it). Yes, yes, I know I can turn this off-- but in the course of writing, I spent a lot of time doing nuke-and-pave installs and deleting and creating accounts. And of course each time you do that, your "Don't launch iTunes every damn time you log in with an iPod connected" setting gets reset.

And 2) the iPod itself is a computer-type device. It reboots into various modes, depending on what it's doing: player mode, or disk mode. It takes several seconds to do this. It boots into player mode unless there's a FireWire connection; if there is, and it successfully negotiates, it goes into disk mode (which can be mounted or unmounted, depending on what you've set it to do in iTunes). And you can't boot off the iPod unless it's booted into disk mode at the time you boot the computer.

If you cold-boot the computer, the iPod is in player mode. It has to reboot into disk mode as soon as it detects that the computer is powered-on on the other side of the FireWire cable. It can't do that in time, before the Mac has read your Option keypress and gone into the boot-volume-selector screen. If you reboot the computer at that stage, the power is interrupted (this is an iMac, and there's no Reset button-- just a power button), and the iPod reboots-- and again isn't ready in time. The only way you can do it is to boot off the Mac's internal disk, let the iPod mount itself in disk mode, then reboot so the power is uninterrupted and the iPod is ready in disk mode for you to select it.

And a litany of other very twitchy details that are of even less interest to anybody, I'm sure.

But it makes for good bragging rights-- it makes a Mac guy feel like a real geek again. Especially when I bring an ailing Cinema Display in to the Valley Fair Apple Store, and tell the guy at the Genius Bar that the thing died just as I was about to start writing the Displays chapter, and wasn't that just a kick in the teeth? We talked, and laughed, and I told him the story of what I'm in the middle of. I mentioned my travails of boot devices; I told him my iPod has spent the past two months as the boot drive for my iMac.

His face became a mask of shock. "You mean... it's been running this whole time?"

"Uh... yeah, pretty much. Why?"

"You know that voids your warranty," he says with real condolence in his voice. "The disk isn't designed for continuous duty." You get the sense that he was feeling the same sick churning in his gut that I suddenly had in mine.

I went home after work that night and un-slept the Mac. And as though the Genius had unlocked some mystical seal in the ether of Silicon Valley, suddenly the iPod would no longer stay booted. I could power-up the machine, it would boot all the way into Panther, auto-login, start to draw my desktop-- and then it would hang, mysteriously, the spinning beach-ball hypnotizing me into despair as I fought the urge to look at the iPod. And sure enough, there it was, its little square screen flashing with the intermittent Apple logo. It was in an endless boot cycle loop. The Mac never got a chance to read any data off it before the iPod crashed again and restarted, and hence the computer's own boot cycle stalled, and restarted, and stalled, and finally never came back at all.

It's at this stage that I thank the graven image of Jobs that sits over my headboard for the new feature in Panther that allows you to sync your iDisk through the use of a local cache copy. This encouraged me to use my iDisk all through the course of the writing-- I'd toss text files and screenshots into folders on the iDisk, and then it would sync those files in the background while I continued to work, staying out of my way CPU-wise and bandwidth-wise, instead of the way it would have worked in the past (requiring me to stop what I was doing while I uploaded files to the remote iDisk server every time I had a change to save). And the upshot was that my files were all safe, locked away in the data center in Cupertino; they didn't depend on my poor abused iPod to hold their battered selves, or to guard their precious contents while the iPod itself valiantly gave its life to the ravages of the elements, in the end shielding them stolidly with its corpse.

But no, they were all intact. I had to borrow Chris' external FireWire drive to finish the project-- ahh, a drive that doesn't think it's anything but a drive, and thus that you can boot off of without worrying about what mode it's booted into-- and the iPod lapsed into a deep, deep coma. It was only over the weekend, after finishing the final chapter submissions, that I administered the Kiss of Life that brought it back from the brink (by this stage, that entails cracking open the shell, peeling off the battery pack, unplugging the battery connector, waiting fifteen minutes, then plugging it back in and snapping it back together). And last night I plugged it into my G5 for the first time, deleted Panther off it, and shoveled in a new heap of songs.

On the way in to work this morning I started it playing. It valiantly launched into "One" by U2, but the right earbud was crackling; rotating the connector helped, but only barely. Nudging it would cause it to lose connection entirely. And I noticed that as it read songs off the disk, the entire LCD panel was flickering, dimly, the way a digital watch does when its battery is just about dead. If I could place my consciousness into the iPod and look out through its screen, I'm sure it would have looked like the Terminator's final sight as he descended into the molten metal tank, thumb raised confidently: static, a crackling image, numeric data fluttering across the margins, error messages scrolling past as it sings its heart out, chorus after chorus... then a darkening of the light source, a screenful of kernel-panic errors, the image freezing and restarting jerkily, as though under a strobe, then a snowy screen... and then nothing.

Not yet, though. It's still hanging on. It's still pulling out song after song that seems to uncannily fit my mood at a given moment. That right earbud seems to be a write-off, and other headphones don't help-- it's the iPod's socket. The battery is only holding a charge for a few hours at a time. With some nursing I might be able to bring it back, as I've done a number of times in the past. But it might be past the time for that.

This is an iPod whose two-year life has given me more enjoyment than any two years of most humans have given me. I couldn't in good conscience sell it; it's not in saleable condition. I could give it away, but it would gnaw at me for weeks, if not months-- I'd be sure it would give up in despair, refusing to play anything but shriek-metal as it frantically tried to call out to me; and then it would go dark, and not even the most gifted electrical engineer would be able to find out why.

I think maybe, when the time comes, I'll bury it. I'll remove the battery, compose the device with dignity, put it in its original display box, and find a quiet corner of the backyard for it.

... No! No... that's too far in the future. It can't die. It's got years left in it. I know it does.

First order of business-- give it its old name back. "BriPod". It's been "GastroPod" for the course of the writing, in the interest of anonymity. Time to give it its identity back, all the way. It's the first step in what will be a long, but ultimately successful, convalescence.

16:13 - Comics Roundup

They never disappoint.

Hey, Garry, he's a Nazi too! Haven't you heard? Oh, and BUSH LIED, PEOPLE DIED!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Compassionate Left.

Oh wait, this one's funny.

13:40 - Feeding Frenzy

While al Qaeda continues its relentless assault of Weapons of Mass Annoyance against HostingMatters, preventing us from reading InstaPundit or LGF or any of a bunch of others, it would seem that everyone's gathering over at IMAO. To pile on one James Wakefield.

I love Michael Moore. I agree with everything he says and I love it that he is making you disgusting, stupid, haters so angry. As I am not an American it's easy for me to think that all Americans are power hungry war mongers that want to destroy all of the worlds diverse cultures. Greed and capitalism are taking over, its great to see that there are some good Americans like Michael Moore trying to make a difference for the good of all humans and not just the wealthy with their multiple yachts and mansions.

P.S You are not PROVING anything by just saying someones ideas are stupid; the key to an argument is to actually give a reason for why something is stupid. Maybe if you all thought about issues instead of seeing everything in black and white (or good and evil) you wouldn't be right wing.

Power to the Prolatarian. -James

And so it starts.

After some back-and-forthing about how to spell "proletarian", James (who lives in Australia) sneeringly asks:

So what exactly do conservatives want? What do you want the world to be? Do you want western culture to conquer all the minority groups it can? Do you want George W declared president of the world? Do you want corporations to be more rich and powerful? Do you want to send scary (sorry "amusing" satire) hate mail to everyone that wants equality? Do you want poor 14 year old girls to have to live with their mistake and have the baby? Do you want more toxins in our waterways? Do you want to live in gated communities where you don't have to mingle with the poor?

Uh huh. Yeah, he's got us there.

Cue David:


You ask a profound question. What do conservatives like me want? Well take it from a guy who has traveled to every continent except Antarctica, I sure don't want what the Third World has.

There is this depressing similarity among Third World nations, be it Morocco, El Salvador, Vietnam or Saudi Arabia. It's the trash, dirt streets, emaciated animals, poor construction techniques, corrupt cops, prevalent violence, undrinkable water, racism, hatred, bigotry and depression. It's being stopped by four cops with machine guns in Cambodia and being "asked" to pay the "road toll." It's meeting a missionary couple and their three small kids at a hotel in Colombia, then finding out a week later that Marxist guerillas kidnapped and killed them. It's walking through the market in Marrakech and getting nauseated by the unrefrigerated meat covered with flies. It's driving down roads in Angola and seeing all the bloated corpses by the side of the road. It's having a prostitute in Thailand tell you that she has a great job - it pays so much more than any other job she could get. It's getting so violently sick in Calcutta that you think you're going to die because the bartender put ice in your drink. It's driving through Saudi Arabia and seeing piles of discarded tires, abandoned cars and trash to make an American Indian cry along the highway.

Then it's returning to the land of heaven, better known as the United States. The land of paved streets and lawns, and houses with paint on them, and water you can drink, and low crime and good paying jobs for women and responsive government and, well and just about everything else from free emergency medical care to clean air to people who stop at red lights and use the on ramps to get on and the off ramps to get off the highway. It's not seeing adolescent girls selling themselves openly without comment by the locals.

James, I don't want to live anywhere other than the United States of America, despite having an enjoyable visit to Australia. But I know for a fact that millions of men, women and children in the Third World watch television and movies and see what we have here and they crave it. They crave it because they live a life of pain and shit.

So James I find your comments depressing and ironic. You and Michael Moore advocate a hatred of the system of government and economics which has created a virtual heaven on earth. You asked "Do you want western culture to conquer all the minority groups it can?" And I answer, "YES." And all the billions of your so-called minorities in the world scream "YES." You asked "Do you want corporations to be more rich and powerful?" And I say, "Yes, I want corporations which produce the medicines which cure the poor of the world, I want the corporations which feed the world, I want the corporations which produce washing machines and cars and airplanes and cell phones and computers to be more rich and powerful."

Then James you asked a most interesting question, "Do you want to live in gated communities where you don't have to mingle with the poor?" How odd. In order to conquer the world, we would need to leave our gated communities. And you implied, by the way you phrased your questions, that you don't want us to leave our gated communities to conquer the worldís minorities. So I would answer this last question with "No I don't want to live in a gated community, blocked off from the poor. I want to bring the benefits of my culture and wealth and beauty to the sick, poor and downtrodden everywhere." You, James, oppose that. In other words, you want me to remain in my gated community so that the poor remain poor. Because as long as the poor remain that way, you have meaning to your life. You care nothing and do nothing for them. You use them as a crutch for your self-righteous evil.

And James, that is why I despise you and Michael Moore and all those who profit from hating and loathing the very thing which brings hope to the poor of this world.

Not that this slows James down. For a little while he acts like he's waffling, like things sort of might seem to make sense. But-- no! No! He's lost it. It's gone.

I really hate religious extremists, inparticular islamic extremists. It is very easy to think that maybe if we just nuke them they will go away, but that would just make more people HATE America. I am an athiest but I don't want to see the end of religion. Diversity and multiculturalism are a beautiful thing, Australia has many cultures living harmoniously together. War is not the answer, increase aid and increase immigration, show people that their cultural identity is respected and their people are welcome to enjoy the benefits of our society. It's a simple idea; if you are nice to people they wont hate you. I don't like it how the west is seen as a christian culture when a multicultural society would be better (and Muslims would stop thinking their is a Christian agenda to wipe them out.)

Post-modernity is pluralist. It is insane to think that a single culture can conquer all others when you think about all the bloodshed it would cause. When people start getting killed for their political and religious beliefs (no matter how stupid we secretly think their religion may be) it is clearly a large step away from being civilized.

I would much prefer my medicines to be made by government owned institutions so that there would be no profiteering in health. Third world countries would also have access to these medicines.

Wouldn't it be nice if America was "heaven on Earth" for everyone not just white middle class men.

Ared, Tom beta 2, Jeff from PRMd, and an immigrant grad student all pile on, gnawing on these last bits of twisted wisdom with longish essays. And then Bill Whittle arrives on the scene.


You are an idiot.

I say idiot because you clearly know nothing about this country. I spent three months in Australia, and I can tell you there are more rich, successful minorities in America than there are people in OZ. There are more rich blacks in Los Angeles than there are on the rest of the PLANET.

You ask what conservatives want? We want to be FREE, idiot -- I say idiot because you can apologize for Saddam all you want, but the fact remains that Iraqis are not being ortured to death at a rate of 5,000 a month, thanks entirely to George Bush and conservatives, and not to Michael Moore. He is too busy torturing Americans to do anything else.

You say you want to make the world more equal -- well, conservatives want that too, idiot. I say idiot because we believe that rather than making the entire world into your poverty-striken, environmentally -ruined, third world shithole of failure, dictatorship, crime, starvation and disease, we would prefer to raise them to the level of free, happy, capitalists -- like Michael Moore, for instance, who, you may have noticed, is not on the verge of starvation like your Proletariat.

You do seem a nice sort of idiot though. But the next time you say only rich, white men are successfull in the USA, perhaps you might want to take your head out of your butt and LOOK THE FUCK AROUND FIRST.


And then he gets mad.

Oh, PS Idiot --

North Korea STARTED the crisis by announcing it had nuclear weapons in direct violation of the deal brokered by BILL CLINTON, who sent the high holy man JIMMY CARTER to get HIS PERSONAL WORD! that the NK's PROMISED, CROSS THEIR HEARTS AND HOPE TO DIE that they would not develop a nuclear program. Bush put them in the Axis of Evil BECAUSE THEY LIED, and when they are gone --no thanks to you -- you will see unfold horrors that make Iraq look like a Beverly Hills Kindergarten.

Once AGAIN, THAT is the result of your Proletariat, idiot -- they are eating their own babies, as you shall find out soon enough.

Ronald Reagan said that the difference between Communists and non-Communists was simple: Communists READ Marx and Lenin; Anti-Communists UNDERSTAND Marx and Lenin.

When Dear Leader goes the way of Hitler and Saddam -- no doubt over your strong protestations -- we will see the triumph of you and your fucking proletariat -- another five or ten million to add to the hundred million or so that your little communist paradise has killed in a century.

You be careful with that word, boyo. There are still free people in the world who are not afraid to fight for their freedom, and you are the low life that rides on their sacrifices for free.

And James pops.

Well I guess I have been proved wrong. Lets get rid of the hopeless goals of living in harmony amongst each other. Multiculturalism is not going to work, we need to send the message "assimilate or DIE!" Who can stop us?

What was I thinking when I made the stupid statement that being nice to countries would stop the hatred. The clear way of fixing their intolerance is to blast them into submission. The bloody united nations trying to do everything diplomatically, they are idiots. Some liberals are suggesting that by bombing countries we are increasing the risk of terorism, I say thats a risk we have to take. In an effort to decrease the terrorism we will increase the searching powers of the police and keep a close eye and regular inspections on all the people practicing Islam (and communists, intellectuals, artists, unions, protestors and the unemployed).

We should go to war with North Korea, who cares that they have the third largest army in the world. The inevitable loss of thousands of American and allied countries' soldiers and Korean civilians is acceptable because they would be heroes. It may take a hundred years to wipe out (or assimilate) all the non-western cultures, but we have to do it to clean this world up.

To fund this crusade we have to tighten the budget abit; we'll spend less on public education, hospitals and we'll abolish welfare altogether. Don't worry there will be a tax cut for corporations so that they will stimulate the economy. The economy will still be strong. Conscription must be brought back to support the army.

With welfare gone there will be a large crime increase, so I recommend you all go out and get a gun to protect yourself from dole bludging scum (well they wouldn't be dole bludging anymore, they'd just be scum!)


So your civil liberties are going, you are becoming a police state, civilians may end up being sent to war (and quite likely dying in a gruesome death.) Your public services are being wittled away or privatised, many areas are becoming too expensive for normal people to live, the arts are being ignored, your freedoms that you are so proud of are being taken away from you, but you get to show off your millitary muscle and you get to clear the world of evil (whatever evil may be)

Attack a country if it invades an allie and the united nations condones the attack.
Attack a country that threatens your way of life (and is an IMMEDIATE threat, none of this scary premptive nonsense)

My buddy Michael Moore is doing all he can to stop America from becoming a facist state, but all you can do is liken any leftist activity to irrelevant 3rd world dictatorships. We have learned from the mistakes of Communism. We will keep fighting against the conservative agenda and we will stop America from taking over the world.

Wow. Sure glad everybody went to all that effort.

This guy would have us solve problems like poverty, dictatorship, and civil war by scooping everybody up, putting them in a terrarium full of candy canes, and hoping it all works out. It's like pulling a branch off a tree, sticking it in the ground, and then patiently waiting for a forest to bloom. And then acting shocked when all it does is die.

Conservatives understand one simple, stupid, moronic thing that the most salt-of-the-earth gardener understands: for something to grow, it has to take root. That means starting slow, giving it nourishment, migrating bit by bit, carefully assembling the conditions so that natural laws take over.

Society's ills can't be solved with a hammer. (Or a sickle, for that matter.) They can be solved with fertilizer. Sure, it smells like shit. That's what it is. But look what it does.

You can't make poor people rich by giving them handouts. You can't make a country racially harmonious by promoting people from minority groups just because of their skin color. You can't create jobs and a strong economy by forbidding companies to fire anybody. You can't have world peace by shutting down the military and ignoring hideous dictatorships.

You can, however, study Adam Smith. You can read Jefferson and Hamilton. You can make a country wealthy by encouraging individual achievement, and by keeping from stifling it with a government that people come to rely on for more than basic services. When people see their destiny as being in their own hands, they make their own world a better place-- because nobody fouls his own nest, if he can truly call it his own.

Some people look at this viewpoint and see in it a bloodthirsty death-cult mindset that revels in war and empire and racism and aristocracy.

I can shake my head and cluck my tongue and think to myself, At least people like this aren't in charge, and their opinions don't matter. But you know... I'd be wrong.

Monday, October 20, 2003
02:27 - Almost doesn't suck

Punning Pundit has posted a followup to his original post on iTunes, in which he had concluded that the app was hobbled by its presumptuous file-organizing behavior and its lack of separate Pause and Stop buttons, among other things. He's had a few days to play with it, and he finds it to be pretty serviceable now-- not the equal of MusicMatch, but not bad.

There are Exactly 2 things MM does better than I-Tunes. Probably neither would be a deal breaker, but together they are important. 1) the aforementioned ID Tag lookup. MM simply does a better job of looking up tags. Yes, there is a bit of manual work involved, but with I-Tunes there is simply a lot more work. 2) AutoDJ. There is a button that let me choose criterion on which to create a playlist. For instance; if I want to listen to 5 hours worth of Upbeat Slow music, and have more than 5 hrs of that kind of music, MM will create a playlist for me. I can choose up to 3 criterion (Album, Artist, Genre, Tempo, Mood, Situation, Preference) If have less than that, MM will simply put what I have in random order. Keeping track of this sort of information is exactly the point of ID tags. Frankly I am surprised that Apple doesn't have this feature. If anyone wants to tell me where it is, Iíll look at I-tunes again. But I did look for it and didnít find it...

I-Tunes is a wonderfully simple piece of software. If I MusicMatch didn't exist, Iíd be using it. Frankly I am surprised more people donít use MusicMatch, but it is clear which is the superior software...

I think he'll find that what he's looking for, in his second concern, is Smart Playlists. These are effectively database queries, which you can specify with an arbitrary number of clauses, either in an "and" or "or" context. Each clause can be an exact match, a beginning/end/partial match, or a negative match-- or a range, or a numerical comparison if applicable. There are also a few additional criteria you can specify-- matching only checked songs, a limit/order clause, and whether or not for the query to be re-executed every time your Library changes. Pretty much everything you can do in SQL, with the exception of logical groupings (i.e. paranthetical clauses).

Of course it's a bit less yucky than that in execution:

Hold down Option (or Shift on Windows) and click the New Playlist button to create one.

Anyway, perhaps he's right, about MusicMatch being everything iTunes is and more-- never having used it, I can't say with any authority. I'm only going by what friends have told me, and my own perfunctory experience gained through P2P-app testing, in which I gain more familiarity with how each program looks at the TCP/IP level than at the UI level. It does sound like MusicMatch has a few features that iTunes lacks, and the fill-in-all-ID3-tags-based-on-what-you've-already-specified sounds pretty useful. For a program designed for one-off MP3 collectors rather than legitimate music owners, it's a feature that definitely has utility.

From a glance, though, it looks to me as though MusicMatch's interface lists songs in the usual Windows hierarchical scheme, with those little [+] boxes in a long vertical column of inscrutable category entries. Probably it's configurable; I don't know. Maybe there's a more straightforward way to display your songs than distinguishing between "Favorites" and "My Matches" and so on. Perhaps users of MusicMatch don't need a more straightforward view. After all:

Anyone who is new to digital music would do well to start with I-tunes... Indeed, that seems to be the assumption Apple is making; users are beginners.

I'd tend to disagree, and counter that what Apple is catering to is not beginners, but simply people who don't want to put up with unnecessary crap. I like to think of myself as not being a "beginner", though I'm sure that's open to debate. Most Mac users I know, though, are about as far from being "beginners" as they can get, and they appreciate apps like iTunes specifically because of the forthrightness of the interface. There's no needless complexity. There are no multiple levels of hierarchical organization. Everything works the same, no matter which screen you're in-- and I, personally, find that to be precisely what makes iTunes so fulfilling to use. It isn't something I have to cope with or figure out. It's something that does what I want, seeming to anticipate my needs, and then gets out of the way.

I could be mistaken, but it's my understanding that MusicMatch was written in direct response to iTunes, which was released in January 2000 (on OS 9-- boy, that takes you back, don't it?). The goal was to do iTunes one better-- take the iTunes interface and add some extra low-hanging features. That appears to be where we are today-- the two apps have rough feature parity, and the layout is even fairly similar. But you can tell at a glance the two traditions that they came from; and while I know MusicMatch's appearance has changed over the years (it used to be dark blue/purple/black, with lots of car-stereo chrome), iTunes' hasn't. It's those two different schools of thought-- striving for the edge and always going for the new hot angle, or offering subtle consistency year after year. And for what it's worth, one doesn't have to be a "beginner' to gravitate toward the latter.

Me, I love iTunes' automatic organizing of my music files. It means that no matter how I edit the track names, albums, artists-- no matter whether I enter Japanese track names in Unicode, or whether I spell the name "Bjork" or "BjŲrk" (iTunes sorts both of those into the same artist entry, coalescing all vowel variants), or whether I want to leave my soundtrack CDs as being by "Various Artists" or whether I want to give each track its proper artist credits and just call the disc a "Compilation", iTunes will guarantee that it'll take me just a few well-placed firing-range clicks in Column View to drill down to the track I want. Or I can just search for the track in iTunes and then drag the song in question right out of the display window into whatever other app window I want to copy it to. Either way-- it's all good.

Apple doesn't design "computers for dummies". Sure, they design computers that novices can immediately use, and comfortably. But the goals of novices and the goals of seasoned computer users are not necessarily incompatible.

I made my peace, about three years ago, with the idea that the key to making friends with Apple software-- with which I wasn't on especially good terms at the time-- was to understand the design concept behind it, and just work with it as designed. Once I learned to stop fighting and love the iBomb, it was like the sun abruptly coming out; all it took was letting go of my control over my MP3s' filenames, my custom visualizer settings, my disk and RAM usage, and so on-- and everything just started to make so much sense. And what's more, once I accepted those default behaviors, I was able to find customizable settings for all of those: I could turn off automatic MP3 organization, and have iTunes play files from wherever in the system they were; I could track down plugins for alternate visualizers (like G-Force) or even new codecs (like Ogg Vorbis); I could tweak things to minimize resource impact. But oddly enough, I didn't want to.

Apple doesn't choose its default settings lightly. When it first came out that Mac OS X was going to "solve" the problem of filename extensions vs. Type and Creator codes by making it so that files were type-associated by extension, but the extension could be hidden on a per-file basis-- and what's more, the default setting for "always show filename extensions" was going to be off-- I threw a titanic hissy fit. But then I started thinking about it. And I started using it. And I realized what it was that Apple was doing: They were designing the file-typing system so that file types would be identified by a piece of required meta-data that's built into the filename and useful on multiple platforms, rather than depending on a piece of external meta-data that gets lost if you send a file to a Windows machine, making the file unassociated with any application. And Mac users could hide the extension-- by "deleting" it in the Finder-- so that as far as he or any Mac application is concerned, the extension isn't there at all. So "My 2000 Taxes.pdf" can appear as "My 2000 Taxes"... but if you were to mail that file to a Windows user, it would still work as a perfectly normal PDF file. And on the Mac side, the hiding would be on a per-file basis, not a global basis like the analogous switch in Windows that causes so many problems ("What, you mean I shouldn't have double-clicked on virus.gif.vbs?"). And finally, on the Mac, with the Type code deprecated, the Creator code was also replaced with the much more flexible Opener attribute-- which let you set global associations per-type as well as individual ones per-file. It was less pleasingly symmetrical than the old Type and Creator codes, but.... frankly, a lot more useful, and a lot more cross-platform friendly. And it barely impacted Mac users at all. Whoever came up with the idea, I'm now convinced, deserves a sharp, shiny piece of engraved Lucite to put on his desk and use to impale presumptuous morons like me who come into his office and try to tell him how to do UI design.

All it took was for me to drink the Kool-Aid, as it were. Or less glibly, I just had to recognize their design reasoning-- and once I did, everything just started making sense.

So it is with iTunes. It appears simplistic, to anyone familiar with Windows apps. But just because it's more spare doesn't mean it's designed for beginners. It's not. It's designed for no-nonsense usefulness. And it doesn't take a beginner to appreciate that.

Maybe MusicMatch is everything that iTunes is, plus benefits. But a whole lotta people are apparently finding that iTunes offers something that has never really been seen before on Windows: an app that puts the fun back into functionality.

All it takes to appreciate it is to give oneself over to the new, possibly alien ideas that iTunes brings. They're really not so bad. They may even be just what you're looking for.

Don't fight it. Go to sleep. Sleeeeeeep. Close your eyes. It'll be aaaall right. <wiggles fingers>

17:28 - I'd call that getting off to a good start

Slashdot is reporting that the iTunes Music Store has sold a million songs since its Windows release 3.5 days ago.

ajkst1 writes "According to an Apple press release, the iTunes Music Store has sold 1 million songs since its release on the Windows platform on October 16. Also of note is the 1 million downloads of the iTunes music program itself. When the iTMS was first released, it took a full week to sell a million songs. The store has now had 14 million songs purchased and downloaded since its original launch in April."


So far the buzz seems to be plenty positive. We've got stalwarts like Penny Arcade and other gaming-oriented sites singing iTunes' praises, and I'm hearing from many Windows-using friends that-- once they get past a few of iTunes' idiosyncrasies-- they're falling helplessly for it.

Some of those idiosyncrasies, it should be pointed out, are not necessarily failings of iTunes-- just culture clash. It's true that many users are having trouble with bugs or infrastructural issues; there's the aforementioned person who had problems getting track listings from the CDDB (which pretty neatly monkey-wrenched the works from then on out, killing any chances of a good first impression), and I had an e-mail from one person who said iTunes was totally useless because it didn't play Ogg Vorbis files (for God's sake). But aside from that, it seems that the biggest problems people are having with it are simply related to how iTunes does its thing. It's working as designed-- it's just the design that people are having trouble getting used to.

And it's not that the design is unnecessarily kooky or anything. It's quite the opposite. As one co-worker tells me, iTunes unnerves people purely because of how simple it is. "How do I rip songs from a CD?" one asked. "Well, see that 'Import' button in the top right?" "Yeah..." "Click it."

"Yeah? And then...?"

"Nothing. That's it."

Apparently a lot of Windows users are honestly finding that that level of intuitiveness is... well, counterintuitive. And that's what's really going to prove to be interesting in the coming weeks and months-- this is the first opportunity we have to see what happens when the Apple software style makes its inroads into the Windows market. We'll see how much resistance it meets, and how much it shakes things up.

Said co-worker said that he believes quite sincerely that iTunes is going to cause a major tectonic shift in how apps are designed on Windows. Apparently it really is that different from what the Windows tradition has made of its native software. I don't know how much credence I give his hypothesis-- I'll believe it when I see it-- but he thinks Windows app developers are going to look at iTunes and seriously, seriously rethink their approach toward UI design. "They'll have to," he says. "There's nothing out there like this. This software could not have come out of the Windows development world."

I suppose there's something to be said for a clash of expectations. From what I've seen of Windows music-management applications, there's been something of an arms race, a relentless push to make things look cooler and more hackery and more dark and mysterious. Yellow text on black backgrounds. Swooshy metallic visual effects. Tiny little letters in blocky technocratic fonts. After looking at things like the AudioGalaxy music player and WMP, it does indeed seem very unlikely that there could be a player from within those ranks who would have the eye-dacity to bring out an application with a spare, conservative appearance, with smooth black letters on a well-padded white and light-blue background, with the major color palette being brushed-metal and beige and blue. How gay!

And that's to say nothing of making features like CD burning simple enough that they require you to do nothing more than click a single button and insert a disc. Or share music from another computer by doing nothing but turning your computer on. Sure, these features look an awful lot like having the hood welded on; but after some examination it just turns out that the access panels are just neatly hidden. Pop one open and you can construct Smart Playlists based on complex database queries into the Library. Pop open another and you can convert between ID3 tag versions or join tracks for large-scale imports. All these features are implemented and exposed in the order of their usefulness; the more esoteric functions are hidden away, and the commonplace ones are out in plain sight, with lots of unused space that in a Windows app would be crammed to the last pixel with control buttons. It's to the point where a user can spend an hour poring through the menus looking for a feature like "Rip CDDA to WAV", when the "Import" button is staring him in the face.

I don't know what this means for the future of Windows software. Maybe it does mean there's a sea change coming, where Windows software will start to be designed according to what provides the most functionality for the least hassle, instead of which app offers more checkbox items and a more techno-hip interface than the next guy's. From a selfish Mac-snob's perspective, that's bad news-- it means less incentive to buy a Mac. But given that the goal is to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things, without having to feel afraid of their own tools... well, I can hardly consider this to be a bad development in the scheme of things.

Let the good times roll!

09:48 - There, there

Penny Arcade:

As Marcus puts it: The cycle is complete.

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© Brian Tiemann